Club Hosts Rowing Legend Arshay Cooper

This past Sunday, award-winning author and motivational speaker Arshay Cooper came to speak to the youth rowers in a socially distanced manner. As a former rower, he talked about how the sport of rowing changed his life. Growing up on the West Side of Chicago, Arshay witnessed things that kids should never have seen. But when he stumbled upon rowing by chance, he came to love the sport and the things he learned from it.

His story began in school when he saw a white boat in the cafeteria advertising the rowing team. He had no idea what it was, but after being convinced by some of his friends to join, he finally showed up to practice. Many of the people there had never been in the water before, but were willing to try rowing, a sport that most of them had never heard of before. But they learned how to erg, they learned how to row, and most importantly, they learned to be a team. Arshay and his teammates were able to bond over their love of rowing, putting aside their differences to row together in the boat. He spoke about how being a team and rowing in the same boat together brought a unified sense of calm and security where they didn’t have to worry about everything else going on in their lives. And although they faced challenges along the way, both physical and mental, their coach always said: you have to give what hurts. So they did. They showed the world that they could overcome adversity while doing what they loved.

Arshay became the captain of the first all African-American high school rowing team at Manley High School. His experiences motivated him to write his memoir, Suga Water and self-publish it in 2015 so he could raise awareness and help bring rowing into communities like his. Now, he is republishing his story with Macmillan, and the documentary “A Most Beautiful Thing” is set to come out on July 10th. Below is a brief interview with Arshay: 

Q: What is your favorite part about rowing?

A: My favorite part of rowing is really the team aspect. Just being in a boat, moving together. And the bond outside of the boat, losing together, winning together, it’s a bond you create for life. 

Q: What advice would you give to people who are new to the sport of rowing?

A: The opportunities for young people in the sport of rowing is the reason why people are sold on the sport. There are no pep rallies, there are no cheerleaders, but what you do find is people who show up every day because they get the chance to travel and scholarship opportunities. You have a lot of fun travelling, being in the water, and it’s a guarantee that you’ll be around those people for the rest of your life. 

Q: What advice would you give to people who are seasoned rowers?

A: My coach said this to me, I’ll never forget it. He said: you have to give what hurts. So my advice for young people is that when you’re on the erg, and it’s getting tough, you have to understand that it hurts. No pain no gain. To see the results you want to see, you have to give what hurts. You have to train yourself mentally as much as physically. 

Q: What motivated you to write a book about your experiences?

A: The lack of opportunities in communities like mine. You have a sport that wants more diversity, and then you have a neighborhood like mine with not many opportunities, so I wanted to bridge that gap. 

Q: How has the diversity and inclusion in rowing changed from when you rowed to now?

A: It has gotten a little better, mainly in major cities like Chicago, New York, Philly. It just needs some more exposure but honestly I think that it can be a lot better. We just need more coaches that are passionate to see the sport diversify. It’s definitely a lot different now 20 years later, but there’s still a lot of work to do. 

Q: There is currently a waitlist for Concept 2 ergs. Do you think this quarantine will spur a new generation of rowers? 

A: I think so. We don’t know in certain cities if you are going to be able to play contact sports, and the erg is perfect because you can sit 6ft apart and race virtually and compete against other teams. You can’t put tanks or boats in schools, but you can put ergs, and I think that’s the start of something great. 

NPBRC Looks forward to hosting Mr. Cooper again soon!

State Championships Yield Top Finishes, Medals

North Palm Beach Rowing Club’s Youth team wrapped its 2019 spring season with the two crowing events of the regular racing slate, the Florida State Sculling and Sweep Championships. Held as two separate regattas for each discipline of rowing, these two events bring together every top youth rower in Florida for two weekends of fierce competition. NPBRC emerged with two State Championship medals and a total of six Grand Final qualifications and two Petite Final appearances out of nine entries overall, indicative of a program that consistently outperforms many, many others in the state.

For context, Florida youth rowing is already one of the toughest competitive fields in the country. With a total of 52 member programs – larger than almost any other state – Florida athletes routinely qualify for the USRowing Youth National Championships and, in recent years, have begun to dominate the podium across many boat categories. For a relatively young team overall – this was the first State Championship appearance for several North Palm Beach rowers – NPBRC’s success at this year’s States is all the more impressive.

Special congratulations are due to NPBRC’s two medalists, Finn Yorty with bronze in the Boys’ Junior 1x and Whitney Young with silver in the Girl’s Junior 1x. These two races routinely deliver some of the most exciting and gutsy racing, and this year was no exception. Finn finished hot on the trail of Belen Jesuit and Sarasota, two of the state’s most established teams, while Whitney pressed last year’s winner all the way to the line. Kudos are also due to graduating senior Blake Pegrum, who capped an already impressive high school career with a 5th place finish overall. These weren’t the only noteworthy achievements, though. At every turn, NPB athletes coupled nearly flawless form with incredible grit, perseverance, and teamwork – all the while, adding to a valuable knowledge bank of experience for the future.

Two rowers, Whitney Young and graduating senior Lauren Arrington, competed just two weeks later in a pair (2-) at the Florida State Sweep Championships, also in Sarasota. The 2- is arguably the most challenging boat category to row since it requires such perfect balance and timing between the two rowers. After just 8 practices together, Whitney and Lauren fought their way through a tough field to qualify for the Grand Final, where they placed 6th in the state. Being able to switch into a new boat and perform this well is a testament to the girls’ fitness, technical skill, and adaptability.

The team will now look ahead to the Southeast Regional Championship in Oak Ridge, Tennessee May 11th and 12th and to several other elite races this summer. NPBRC will host an Open House on Saturday, June 1st for the public to learn more about this sport, and will also hold a summer camp for aspiring rowers from June 4th-13th.

Masters Make World Championship Debut

At the peak of a hot Florida summer, North Palm Beach Rowing Club’s “masters” team – in rowing, this refers to adults over age 23 – seized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make its World Championship debut on US soil. For the first time ever, the FISA World Masters Championship was held in Florida at Sarasota’s Nathan Benderson Park – a new, sprawling top-notch international rowing venue just a four hour drive from NPBRC’s home base. This was an opportunity not to be missed.

Eleven stalwart NPBRC athletes joined competitors from 365 other clubs around the world for a shot at the coveted title of World Champion. Competitors came from as far away as Australia, Argentina, India, Russia, and nearly everywhere in between. South Africans. Swiss. Japanese. The international representation was absolutely staggering, a virtual United Nations of the rowing world. Within the US, this race drew top talent from our country’s most renowned and storied clubs. The venue was packed with every age, shape, and size imaginable: former elite athletes mingling with octogenarians, new racers soaking it in alongside some of the most recognizable names in rowing. When it was all said and done, when the burn of lactic acid was done and hearts and lungs returned to a more sustainable pace, NPBRC’s rowers left the racecourse with one third place finish, multiple fourth place finishes, and many other hard-fought races under their belts, experience that has only heightened the team’s hunger for more and sharpened skills for seasons to come.

Regardless of the outcome, one fact stands out. North Palm Beach took to the field when many others dared not.

Opportunity seen. Opportunity seized.

Two State Titles, Top Finishes at FSRA Championship Regatta

North Palm Beach Rowing Club’s youth team notched it’s best performance ever this year at the 2018 Florida State Sculling Championships, hosted by the FL Scholastic Rowing Association (FSRA). NPBRC is now home to the two fastest female single scullers in Florida youth rowing, Gracie Leon (Girls Varsity 1x) and Maricella Adams-Grimaldi (Girls Jr. 1x), who dominated the field in their respective events to capture gold against the fastest scullers in the state.  Meanwhile, NPBRC qualified 4 other of their 8 total entries (for a total of 6) into the Grand Final of their events. Of these, NPBRC walked away with two 5th place Grand Final finishes and two 6th place finishes. Perhaps most importantly, though, each and every NPB entry left it all on the racecourse. For many NPBRC rowers, this was their first year of competition and first ever appearance at a rowing state championship – an admirable performance by all. For others, like senior Lucas Rossell, who finished top 6 in the state against one of the toughest fields in the regatta, the boys Lightweight 1x, the event capped an extensive – and very impressive – high school rowing career.

With the regular season behind it, several North Palm Beach athletes will continue on to USRowing’s Southeast Regional Championship and the USRowing Youth National Championship, and much of the team will continue to hone their skills as they prepare for races nationally and internationally.



Second NPBRC Rower invited to Jr. National Team Camp

North Palm Beach Rowing Club athlete Gracie Leon has become the second NPBRC rower this season to be invited to a USRowing Junior National Team Development Camp. Gracie began rowing with NPBRC in 2016. According to USRowing, she was invited based on several factors, including her many wins this year (the Southeast Regional Championship as one example, in which she won two gold medals), her ergometer score, and her proven potential.

As stated in USRowing’s invitation letter, the purpose of this Development Camp is to identify future hopefuls for the 2018 and 2019 US Junior National Team and increase the pool of available athletes from which to choose future National Team competitors. Gracie is one of only 24 girls from across the United States selected to attend this camp, which focuses on singles (1x), doubles (2x), and quads (4x). USRowing’s goal is to “identify athletes with potential early in their rowing careers and put them in an environment where they can learn and grow in the sport. This will help them better understand the process for contending for a World Championship.”

We are very proud of Gracie’s accomplishment and the incredible results that our coaching staff, parents and teammates have produced in such a short time.